I sat at my desk and stared down at my Dixon number 2 pencil. A marvel of elegance. Its ribbed circumference, its pointed led tip, its dense pink eraser. Engineering at its finest. Its ability to transcribe lofty, fickle and abstract ideas. How it freezes thoughts in time and represents them between the blue and red parameters of a page. The pencil is a middle man between vigorous introspection and the proliferation of change in the world. The pencil is a portal between the timeless, spaceless realm of the consciousness and the material world. The material world where people point fingers and speak about each other in hushed tones. The material world where evil seeps into communities, poisoning the members into disarray, hatred and death.
The evils in this world persist through ignorance. Through the lack of smarter paradigms. Because nobody’s sat down with a white page and a Dixon and drafted a solution. The pencil is not the intention, but the vehicle for intention. It brings what isn’t into what is. The pencil is the most powerful tool in the world. It’s a highly refined piece of technology on which our modern systems are based. From scratches on the walls of an ancient caves to the vibrant print on an urban billboard, the pencil sits comfortably in the middle as the most substantial evolutionary leap in the world of information transmission.
A pencil represents polarity. It carries ideas into the material space through the loops and lines of written content, but flip it around and you have the ability to erase it from existence, back into the realm of abstraction. A pencil is forgiving. A pencil’s output ranges in intensity. It could be loose ideas jotted down without cohesion, or refined frameworks for how to navigate the world. A pencil knows that trials precede perfection, that the first draft of anything is shit..as Ernest Hemingway says.
A pencil helps you hone your craft through conversion of ideas into print, then from print back into ideas, and then from further substantiated ideas back into print, and then from print back into further substantiated ideas until a full model is constructed and materialized and criticized by the surrounding communities. This is development. This is creation. This is what mediates the acceleration of human intelligence and the design that results.
I picked up the pencil, hovered it 3 inches from my face and spun it between my thumb and forefinger. An item worth pennies. An item so commonplace it’s left on desks, transferred freely between people and simply given away. But it’s an item that changed the world. A simple item, worth a fraction of a dollar per unit, penetrated the world’s society and began the great diffusion of information. It’s a concept our world is now founded on, from hand written letters to documents forged by the printing press, to pages of typewritten content, to websites on an endless internet scroll. The pencil is knowledge.
A pencil is design perfection. All attempts to fit layers of technology on top of this tool have been unnecessary and a simple example of the humans’ need to develop past the point of function. The marker, the pen, the gel pen, the fine tip felt pen with anti-bleeding technology, it’s all unnecessary flare. Hand me a Dixon and call it a day.
But the pencil also creates beyond the confines of words. Through the hand of an artist, the pencil drafts visual content with no set agenda. It takes crude cognitive output and translates it into imagery. This imagery can then be contemplated, analyzed, criticized until some meaning is extracted and ideas are birthed. The pencil can state an idea, but it can also point in the direction of one. The pencil is versatile. A close friend of the mind. A mutual relationship where the mind stirs the pot but the pencil extracts the goods.
But despite the revolution the pencil initiated, it’s functional utility is nearly irrelevant today. Why print when you can type? When you can thumb out words on a glass keyboard and share ideas instantly with everybody. How long will it be until this tool recedes entirely from common use and becomes an abstract milestone of a different time?
One beautiful truth about the pencil is that no matter which direction society takes, and no matter how much time has passed, the pencil will always be a crucial catalyst that changed with world. Under no circumstance can an engineer invent a new tool for communication that isn’t ultimately based on the premise of the pencil. Doing so would be like creating a human life whom has no historical lineage. The pencil is a fundamental tool that represents a fundamental concept: that thoughts can be documented and shared to bring about change. The pencil has done this with such inconceivable efficiency. For less than a dollar you can write down a thought that will change the world indefinitely. It’s a tool so strong and versatile it can bring about the most glorious developments, but in the wrong hands, the most malicious deconstructions.
So pick up a pencil. Feel it’s modest mass in your palm. Run your thumb down its painted ridge and sharpened point. Drag its eraser across the desk and feel the friction. Identify the power in this skinny piece of led and wood. Recognize its potential. Anticipate its effect. Create. Learn. Build. This tool is what carries your mind into the material world for comparison and unity with other minds. What a concept. What magic.